Rail staff discovered woman's body when investigating report of train striking animal
14:24 – 30 January 2009
A WOMAN who committed suicide was discovered beside the Thameslink line near Harpenden when Network Rail staff were investigating reports that a driver had hit an animal.
Vivian Pinney, who was described as "troubled" at an inquest into her death yesterday (Thursday), was found dead on the morning of September 14, 2007, at East Hyde, just north of Harpenden station. She had been struck by a train.
It was initially thought that the 45-year-old was killed by a passenger train travelling to Bedford at around 9.30pm on the previous day because the driver reported hitting a badger – the original reason for Network Rail attending the scene.
But subsequent investigations ruled this out as she had purchased cigarettes using her cash card after 6am on Sep[tember 14, just hours before the discovery of her body.
Mrs Pinney, who had a long history of depression and was taking medication, was last seen by her son just after midday on September 13 at her home address in Colwell Rise, Luton.
Her red Vauxhall Corsa was seen on vehicle recognition systems in St Albans, Knebworth and Stevenage throughout that day.
Her car was found near to where her body was discovered and inside was a note addressed to her family, along with an empty packet of cigarettes. She had discarded her mobile phone sim-card at the Galleria shopping centre in Hatfield.
It was suggested at the inquest that Mrs Pinney was probably struck by a freight train as the driver would have been unlikely to noticed hitting her.
British Transport Police Detective Inspector Ciaran Dermody explained that the size and huge weight of freight trains meant there would be no sensation of an impact, and the driver was unlikely to have seen her as they had large blind-spots because their cabin was so high up. It was never established which train hit her as so many had been using the track.
A pathologist found that Mrs Pinney died from multiple-traumatic injuries synonymous with her standing or crouching on the track when the train hit her.
Herts Coroner Edward Thomas said: " One of her friends from Barnfield College, where she worked, said she seemed to be a lovely and lively lady but that a little bit of her sparkle had gone. Things weren't quite right."
He continued: "I think that she was hit by a freight train. Any other train driver would have noticed her and seen her. In my judgement it was perfectly feasible for those driving the freight train not to know anything had happened."
Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Thomas said: "The note that she left and the circumstances indicated that, when she went on to the railway line, she knew what would happen.
He added: "She came out from the bushes in an area which is very secluded and stayed still as the train approached, and she died. She would have been able to see the train so I am inevitably led to the conclusion that she took her own life.